This is the first part in our  July series about cultivating connection between parents and their children. You can read part two on exploring the power of parental modeling here.   You can read part three on exploring connecting through child-led play here. You can read part four on connecting before correcting here. 

Parenting is hard. Full stop. Balancing your own life and needs while maintaining the needs and wants of another growing and learning human being is a challenge. In an attempt to minimize the stress of parenting, you might sometimes operate on autopilot—getting things done, moving on to the next task, and repeating the cycle. However, during this autopilot mode, it’s easy to lose connection with your child. So, how do we reconnect or create that connection for the first time?

Intentional quality time is a simple concept but can be hard to execute. So, what is intentional quality time? It is time purposefully dedicated to being fully engaged with your child. That’s it! Now, how do we make this happen? It’s not like the world stops, allowing you to set everything aside and devote all your time and limited energy to this one thing. Let’s explore ways to create this time while also achieving goals that strengthen the relationship between you and your child without causing parental burnout.

Explore Your Child’s Interests

By exploring your child’s interests, you show them that you care about what’s important to them. If you can engage with them in their interests, do so! For example, if your child is interested in a particular show or music artist, ask them to show you episodes or songs and share more about what they like. If their interests are activities you struggle to get involved with, such as a sport they play or a school activity, it can be just as valuable to attend their events and make an effort to learn more about what they enjoy.

Set Aside Time in Advance

As a parent, time constantly feels fleeting. Finding quality time on the fly is challenging. So, with your child, identify a time when you both can be together uninterrupted. This requires mindfulness on your part to ensure the allotted time is fully devoted to your child. Don’t promise time you don’t have, as this can create distrust and sadness when your child feels shortchanged. The lingering feeling should be the positive experience you shared, not the disappointment of broken promises.

Be Engaged

Being engaged is probably the hardest part. You’re constantly putting energy into parenting while tending to other areas of your life. To be engaged requires you to be fully present and an active participant in the activity. This cannot be passive; it demands extra effort from you. But while this can be the hardest part, it is also the most rewarding. Connecting with your child comes from the emotional intimacy you find with each other through engagement.

Change can feel heavy and hard, and a lot of this information can seem overwhelming. But creating and fostering the relationship between you and your child will be forever empowered through these intentional moments of time. This means time beyond your normal routine—not just eating dinner in the same space, not just being in the car together during carpool, not just existing in the same environment. It’s about time fully devoted to connection.

By: Chiodera Drayton-Smith, LCSWA

Chiodera Drayton-Smith is a therapist at Mathews Counseling. She currently taking new clients but space is limited. Request your appointment today! Learn more about Chiodera here

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